Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In other words. . .

Imagine: waking up one fine-printed morning to discover you can’t read.

What would you do if ever you lost the ability to decipher letters? The condition, most-likely to be stroke-induced, is called alexia and its history and characteristics are described in detail an article by Oliver Sacks in this week’s edition of The New Yorker.

Reading is a complex human gift, which works independently of our ability to communicate by spoken word, a capacity that is believed to have evolved through the process of evolution. In other words, the origin of reading - and writing - cannot be understood as an evolutionary adaptation. It is something more profound, “dependent on the plasticity of the brain, and on the fact, that even within the small span of a human lifetime, experience - experiential selection - is as powerful an agent of change as natural selection.”

As it turns out, the “brain’s letterbox,” even when dumped upside down like a jumble of foreign Scrabble tiles, doesn’t necessarily lose the remarkable capacity to write. Imagine that. The act of writing things down actually works to stabilize eratic memory. Imagine: writing not as an option, but an imperative, a palliative measure, literally repairing, feeding and stirring memory and creativity.

And so it would seem, the “artist’s way” is naturally the “brain’s way” of finding new pathways - even through injury - to recharge, renew and to create.

Building the case: for keeping a “memory book.”

To read more


Also: Howard Engel, The Memory Book (novel -published in 2005) and The Man Who Forgot to Read, a Memoir (2007).


  1. Ack. Oliver Sacks makes me so nervous about the state of my head. I had to drop Musicophilla like a hot potato because I was afraid I myself might start hearing all symphonies all the time.
    I WILL definitely read this one those. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Okay. I read this. It freaked me all the way out.